Opening day: April 9 at Charlotte
Home opener: 7 p.m. April 17 vs. Norfolk
Tickets: 1-800-745-3000; individual game tickets go on sale April 1.
FLOWERY BRANCH — With opening day six weeks away, Gwinnett Braves general manager Bruce Baldwin is making the public-relations rounds. Wednesday he stopped in Flowery Branch to speak at a South Hall Business Coalition meeting, touching on topics ranging from stadium construction to the team’s marketing effort.
Though ticket sales for the Triple-A affiliate of the Atlanta Braves have been affected by the lagging economy, Baldwin said the organization hasn’t taken a huge hit financially.
“Our marketing is doing remarkably well, I think, in these economic times,” Baldwin said. “I will tell you candidly, we’re struggling on skybox sales. You know, that’s a big ticket item, and I think (the slow sales are) understandable.”
Baldwin added that season ticket packages, which include 10- and 25-game packs, as well as full season packs, are selling better. All told, about 3,300 packages have sold, with 10-game packs accounting for almost half of those.
“If you’re interested, that might be the best way to go,” Baldwin said. “I call it a 10-day vacation for $72.”
Construction on the as-yet unnamed stadium began in April 2008 and is moving along briskly, Baldwin said.
“I have built and been a part of building stadiums across the country, and typically it takes 18 to 24 months,” Baldwin said. “We are accomplishing this in eight to 12 months.”
The stadium, which includes a 30-by-40 foot video screen and numerous children’s activities on the grounds, is located on Buford Drive, about a mile south of the Mall of Georgia in Buford. Baldwin said the project is about 85 percent complete and should be finished in less than a month.
As for the on-field product, Baldwin said fans can expect to see major-league caliber talent on a nightly basis.
“The only major difference between our players and the ones in the pros is consistency,” Baldwin said.
Expectations are high for numerous Braves prospects who could begin 2009 in Gwinnett, including pitcher Tommy Hanson and outfielders Jordan Schaefer and Jason Heyward. All three are currently in Florida for spring training, battling for roster spots in Atlanta.
When asked specifically if Hanson will pitch for Gwinnett this season, Baldwin recognized the draw of the potential star.
“We certainly hope so,” he said. And with a laugh added: “If he’s had any success, we’ll be sure to jack up the ticket prices when he pitches.”
Opening day for the Gwinnett Braves is April 9, when they play at Charlotte. The home opener is set for 7 p.m. April 17 against the Norfolk Tides, a Baltimore Orioles affiliate.
This will be the Triple-A team’s first season in Gwinnett County after spending 43 seasons in Richmond, Va.